GLOBAL LITHIUM WRAP: China’s battery-grade lithium carbonate prices strengthen

China’s domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate prices have started to move up this week after continuous price decreases since November 2017 due to reduced production from Qinghai, stronger industrial-grade lithium carbonate prices and lower stocks of lithium compounds.

China’s battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices held steady on quiet demand, while prices for the rest of the world went down.
  • Most producers increased battery-grade lithium carbonate prices on higher industrial-grade carbonate prices and reduced stocks. 
  • The price of industrial-grade carbonate material increased in the Qinghai region due to fewer stocks.
  • Lithium hydroxide prices remained stable this week on sluggish buying. 
  • Prices across the rest of the world fell on slow demand catching up with the lower prices in China. 
China’s spot battery-grade lithium carbonate market rebounded slightly this week, with most producers pushing up prices due to higher prices of industrial-grade materials and fewer stocks near the end of the year.

Unfavourable weather at the start of winter resulted in reduced brine-pond evaporation rates in Qinghai province in China, which was also said to be a major factor behind the increase in prices.

Fastmarkets MB last assessed the Chinese domestic spot battery-grade lithium carbonate price (min 99.5% Li2CO3) at 74,000-83,000 yuan ($10,651-11,946) per tonne on Thursday October 26, up from 72,000-80,000 yuan per tonne from the previous week.

“We purchased carbonate at lower prices in mid-October and haven’t started any new purchases this week. Suppliers increased their offer prices and I think current prices are mostly at 78,000-80,000 yuan per tonne,” a buyer told Fastmarkets MB.

“We have sold battery-grade lithium carbonate material at 83,000 yuan per tonne due to the lower level of stocks and reduced production at this time of year,” a producer told Fastmarkets MB.

Producers in Qinghai increased their prices of industrial-grade carbonate in response to diminishing stocks, which gave upward support to the whole market.

The Fastmarkets industrial-grade lithium carbonate min 99% Li2CO3 price assessment up to 65,000-70,000 yuan per tonne, ex-works China, on Thursday October 25 from 60,000-70,000 yuan per tonne the previous week.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide prices in China held stable this week on thin buying activities from downstream buyers.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price was at 110,000-120,000 yuan per tonne, ex-works China, on Thursday, unchanged from the previous week, according to Fastmarkets MB’s market assessment.

Battery-grade lithium hydroxide micronized (smaller particulate size) material continues to trade at a premium to the Fastmarkets IM assessment of lithium hydroxide standard battery-grade price in China, ranging between 120,000-130,000 yuan per tonne, sources reported.

Although, not all producers are capable of producing this material due to its corrosive and highly reactive nature, which requires special conditions and facilities for its production.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide micronized material above is being captured but is excluded from the Fastmarkets IM assessment as per the methodology.

Asian seaborne market down on sluggish activity
The Asian seaborne market has declined on thin market activity. Producers and consumers have held back on concluding deals, with participants agreeing that the seaborne market is moving down and following the trend in the Chinese domestic spot market from recent weeks.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO3) price moved down to $13.50-15.50 per kg on Thursday from $14-16 per kg the previous week, on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) price moved down to $16-18 per kg on Thursday from $18-19 per kg the previous week, on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis.

“Our hydroxide spot prices on a cif China, Japan or South Korea basis have decreased on low consumer appetite and we would find any price above $18 per kg on a spot basis exceptional at this point of the year,” a producer told Fastmarkets. “Our offer prices are as high as $17 per kg but we did not manage any sales.”

“The seaborne cif China, Japan and South Korean lithium carbonate battery-grade market has softened and we see prices as low as $13 per kg or even lower,” a second producer told Fastmarkets.

Slow demand and lower Chinese domestic spot prices over the course of the past few weeks have been dragging prices down in the rest of the world week on week.

Yet, the slight price improvement in China this week could revert this price trend.

Europe, US lithium prices down
European and United States lithium spot market prices have gone down this week on sluggish activity and lower Chinese domestic spot market prices.

“Battery-grade lithium carbonate material is available in the market as low as $13 per kg, influenced by low demand and lower Chinese spot market prices in recent weeks,” a third producer told Fastmarkets.

“Both carbonate and hydroxide prices have softened in the rest of the world due to the slow demand and lower Chinese spot market prices in past weeks,” a fourth producer told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets’ battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (min 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price range moved down to $16-18 per kg on Thursday from $17.20-19 per kg the previous week, on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the US.

The battery-grade lithium carbonate (min 99.5% Li2CO) spot price also moved down to $13.50-15 per kg on Thursday from $14-16 per kg, on a delivered duty-paid basis to Europe and the US.

Sluggish market activity, low demand and the availability of cheaper Chinese material remain the main factors behind the lower prices.

Fastmarkets’ trade log for battery-grade lithium carbonate in China for October includes all trades, bids and offers reported to Fastmarkets.

Learn more about Fastmarkets’ lithium pricing methodology and read the latest lithium price spotlight here.

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker. Get a sample of the report here.

Global lithium market prices

Martim Facada

martim.facada@fastmarkets.com

Carrie Shi

Carrie.shi@fastmarkets.com

Published

Martim Facada

Carrie Shi

October 26, 2018

13:08 GMT

Beijing, London